In 1978, Chris Rea Was No "Fool"

'Whatever Happened to Benny Santini?'
Photo Credit
Magnet Records Ltd.

On July 2, 1978, Chris Rea entered the Billboard Hot 100 for the first time in his career with a song that would become the most successful U.S. single of his career - even as it provided American listeners with a major misconception about what a typical Chris Rea song sounds like.

Penned by Rea and produced by Gus Dudgeon at The Mill, a studio in Berkshire, England, “Fool (If You Think It’s Over)” was the first single from Rea’s first album, Whatever Happened to Benny Santini? In other words, it was one heck of a way to kick off a recording career, particularly considering that Rea continues to play to audiences around the world to this day.

Inspired by a breakup endured by Rea’s little sister, Paula, and featuring advice that he may or may not have actually given her, it was Rea’s attempt to deliver the sort of song that Al Green might record. Unfortunately, Rea never had the opportunity to offer any input into how it should sound, so while he’d envisioned it as having a Memphis soul flavor, it, uh, didn’t.

Like, not even a little bit.

“It never turned out the way I intended it to be,” Rea told Jon Kutner. “The trouble with it was that it was made a hit record so quickly, I never had the chance to voice my opinion about what I thought about the production. And it still would have been a hit, because it was hit song material. But I’d always heard it as a Memphis tune.”

Rea detailed his dissatisfaction with “(Fool) If You Think It’s Over” in more detail in an interview with Songfacts.

I was never happy with that record. It's the only record I've never played guitar on. Some guys just howl with laughter when I tell them that. Mainly I did as I was told by a huge producer, and he'd been told by the record company to turn me into the next Elton John, which couldn't be further away from what I was. But they had decided that's what he was going to do. They didn't want me to sing low because that wasn't commercial. That is all, thankfully, just gone now, which is great. I've still got a piece of paper and on the original lyrics it says: "'Fool (If You Think It's Over).' Song for Al Green. 96 beats per minute. Al Jackson, drums." And that's what "Fool" was always meant to be.

Despite Rea’s dissatisfaction, “(Fool) If You Think It’s Over” succeeded beyond most expectations of a first single: in addition to hitting No. 30 on the U.K. Singles chart and climbing to No. 12 on the Hot 100 (that week's No. 1 song: A Taste of Honey's "Boogie Oogie Oogie"), it topped the Billboard Easy Listening chart for multiple weeks. Unfortunately, as noted, he never got anywhere near those chart heights in the U.S. again, but don’t feel bad for our man Chris: in the UK, he’s got eight Top 10 albums to his name, including two chart-toppers (The Road to Hell and Auberge), so he’s doing just fine.

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